Published: Thu, January 16, 2020
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Scientists Play God By Creating Living Programmable Robots

Scientists Play God By Creating Living Programmable Robots

"These are novel residing machines", stated Joshua Bongard, a roboticist from the College of Vermont and a co-leader of the current scrutinize, in a press start. Refined, they could be used inside the human body to reprogram tumors, deliver drugs or scrape plaque out of arteries.

They have been described as "entirely new life-forms" that cannot only heal on their own but also walk and swim, work in groups, and even survive for weeks without food. The scientists conducting the experiment took live stem cells from frog embryos and then covered them. It's a brand current class of artifact: "a residing, programmable organism". The living robots can also clean up radioactive waste and collect microplastics in the ocean.

In their study, the team writes that this research for the first time ever "designs completely biological machines from the ground up". The parable is an illusion: these blobs consist of just two things, skin cells and heart cells from frogs. As the computer discerns which models successfully accomplish the task, the scientists decide which ones they want to actually test.

Named xenobots after the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) from which they take their stem cells, the machines are less than a millimeter (0.04 inches) wide - small enough to travel inside human bodies. Then, these cells are joined using incredibly tiny surgical instruments and electrodes. The resulting organisms could move in a coherent fashion and explore their environment for days or weeks using embryonic energy stores. Skin cells held the xenobots together, and the beating of heart tissue in specific parts of their "bodies" propelled the 'bots through water in a petri dish for days, and even weeks at a stretch, without needing additional nutrients, according to the study.

Sam Kriegman, a doctoral student on the team at the University of Vermont, said that the work did raise ethical issues, particularly given that future variants could have nervous systems and be selected for cognitive capability, making them more active participants in the world. The Xenobots could help researchers understand the nuances of cell biology, giving them a breakthrough in understanding human health and the longevity of their lives. As The Guardian explains, these are tiny, artificially created life-forms, made to perform a particular task such as moving along or carrying a small payload.

Then, researchers scraped living stem cells from frog embryos and left them to incubate.

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'We sliced the robotic almost in half and it stitches itself again up and retains going.

"It is 100 per cent frog DNA - however these are usually not frogs", stated Professor Bongard.

Scientists in the USA claim to have created zombie robots from reanimated frog cells, giving rise to a living organism never seen or created before which can perform important tasks while healing itself. "That fear is not unreasonable", Levin says.

"I think it's an absolute necessity for society going forward to get a better handle on systems where the outcome is very complex", Levin said.

He added that as humanity furthers into the future, a better understanding of complex properties would stem from simple rules.

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